| Ajit Agarkar, who scalped six Australian wickets, celebrates with Yuvraj Singh after dismissing Damien Martyn for a duck on Friday
Melbourne: Sourav Gangulyís valiant 82 went in vain as India lost their last six wickets for just 13 runs in a dramatic fashion and allowed Australia to script a thrilling 18-run victory in the opening match of the triangular series here on Friday.
Chasing 289 for victory, the Indians were in a fairly comfortable position at 257 for four till the 45th over before the shocking batting collapse tilted the scales in Australiaís favour.
The visitors had themselves to blame as the late-order batsmen succumbed to the pressure to fold up for 270 in 49 overs.
The Indians launched the run-chase on a brisk note with Sachin Tendulkar (63) and Virender Sehwag putting on 103 in an opening stand. Sourav kept the hopes alive but the complexion of the game changed after Yuvraj Singhís dismissal in the 46th over with India needing 32 for victory. Earlier, electing to bat, Australia recovered from a top-order collapse to post a healthy 288 in 48.3 overs with Andrew Symonds (88) and Michael Clarke (63) pulling the team out of the pits with a 143-run stand for the fifth wicket.
After the openers had given India a good start, Sourav and Yuvraj (25 off 24 balls) appeared to take India to victory in the floodlit encounter. But Yuvraj, who looked in good touch, holed out off Ian Harvey to midwicket and then Sourav was run out of the next ball when new man Sanjay Bangar did not pay heed to his captainís call for a quick single.
With the momentum being badly affected by the two quick dismissals, the rest of the Indian batting collapsed in a heap to give the hosts a winning start.
The Indian batsmen looked intent on following up the good work of Ajit Agarkar who finished with a career-best six for 42 in Australiaís 288 in the afternoon.
Tendulkar set the early pace in characteristic style and went after Jason Gillespie in his seventh over by hooking him for a six and then flicking him through midwicket for a gorgeous four.
The Little Master hit a glorious off-drive off Andy Bichel to reach his half-century from a mere 45 balls with seven fours and a six. Sehwag was just beginning to get into his stride when he hit across the line to a Harvey delivery and was bowled for 35 from 59 balls with three fours.
Tendulkar was stunned by a brilliant catch by Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting at mid wicket who jumped in the air and caught the maestro one-handed off Andrew Symonds. Tendulkarís 63 came off 69 balls with eight fours and a six.
Sourav, 33 runs short of 9,000-run mark before the start of his innings, reached the milestone in style when he hammered Brad Williams straight down the ground for a six. Sourav and V.V.S. Laxman got a reprieve when Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn dropped chances in Williamsí sixth over, and the total in the 140s.
Sourav completed his half-century with a flick for a single off Symonds from 52 balls with three fours and a six. But then he lost two of his partners quickly, both Laxman (16) and Rahul Dravid (16) succumbing to the pressure of lifting the scoring rate.
Earlier Symonds (88) and Clarke (63) put on 143 runs off a mere 142 deliveries for the fifth wicket but Agarkar stole the limelight with some incisive medium pace bowling. While India picked one point from the defeat, Australia notched up five points. (PTI)